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Unnatural Accumulation Determines Liability for Snow and Ice Injuries

Posted on in Personal Injury

Unnatural Accumulation Determines Liability for Snow and Ice InjuriesThe coming of winter means we are nearing slip and fall season in Illinois. Snow and ice accumulation creates treacherous surfaces, which can cause us to fall despite our best efforts to remain safe. Falls can cause severe injuries, including broken bones and head trauma, which can affect you for years. When unsafe conditions on someone else’s property cause you to fall and hurt yourself, you can try to sue the property owner for negligence. However, Illinois law protects property owners from personal injury liability in most cases involving natural accumulation of snow and ice. To win the personal injury case, you will need to prove that the property owner created the conditions that led to your injury.

Natural Accumulation

According to Illinois law, property owners are under no obligation to protect visitors by clearing snow or ice from walking surfaces. This rule holds even if a municipal ordinance requires snow to be removed from walking services after a certain amount has accumulated. Thus, property owners are not liable for injuries caused by a natural accumulation of snow or ice on their properties. The definition of a natural accumulation includes:

  • Untouched snow that has fallen;
  • Any drifting of snow caused by wind or melting;
  • Ice that results from snow melting and refreezing;
  • Tracks in the snow caused by pedestrian and vehicle traffic; and
  • Snow that falls off of vehicles.

Unnatural Accumulation

When a property owner chooses to remove snow and ice, the manner in which they are removed can create premises liability. With residential property owners, the plaintiff will have to prove that the defendant was willfully negligent or malicious in how he or she removed or repositioned the snow on the property. Commercial property owners are often the most vulnerable to premises liability in personal injury cases. They will try to clear walkways as a convenience to customers but can be liable for injuries on their property if:

  • They are negligent in reasonably removing snow and ice from the areas they are trying to clear;
  • They create unnatural piles of snow in places where they should know runoff may cause ice accumulation;
  • They sign a snow removal contract, thus creating a duty to remove snow; or
  • Their property has a design flaw that causes unnatural accumulations of snow and ice in high-traffic areas.

Receiving Compensation

A property owner may not be liable for your injury, even if you believe he or she could have done more to remove snow and ice from the walkway. The case depends upon the owner creating the conditions that caused your accident. A McHenry County personal injury attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can advise you on your chances of receiving compensation in a premises liability case. Schedule a free consultation by calling 815-338-3838.



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